The Devil went down to Cambridge OR Attacking the Darkness

The ever-reliable Cambridge Evening News reveals that dark forces are gathering in Cambridge: “Magus Lynius Shadee, self-named King of All Witches, has announced he will open in the city centre by December 24” (I don’t know what it means for a magus to “open in the city centre”, but I’m not sure I want to stick around to find out). Local church leaders aren’t too pleased about this, and warn of bad juju.

This set me thinking about the time the vicar at my former church told us that educated Cambridge Christians hadn’t taken the stuff in the Bible about demons seriously enough. Basic theism is all very well at first, but inevitably you move on to the harder stuff. Initially, you’re all “everything that begins to exist has a cause” but before long you start thinking that the Resurrection is pretty good evidence for Christian theism (after all, as the Christian sort of God exists, it’s likely that he would raise Jesus from the dead, therefore the Resurrection is not terribly unlikely; therefore, given the New Testament evidence, the Resurrection happened; therefore the Christian sort of God exists).

Tragically, for some people even that’s not enough. Not satisfied with a Trinity, they crave other supernatural beings. From there, it’s a slippery slope to “I had doubts about the validity of that Resurrection argument / fancied that boy/girl/sheep / had a bit of a funny turn late at night: SATAN DUNNIT!”

When I was a lad, the school Christian Union leaders told us Dungeons and Dragons was a doorway to danger, a gateway into Satanism. I’d like to suggest that Christianity is a gateway to Dungeons and Dragons. This isn’t a completely new idea: arkannath suggested it in the comments of one of my old posts, which you might also enjoy.

Father David Paul’s (Cleric level 1, patron: Papem, god of guilt about sex) warning that “People who go to these things often end up with mental problems” is best read as a caution to people with poor Will Saves. Rev Ian Church is clearly some sort of adventuring cleric (level 3, patron: Jeebus, god of circular arguments) on a quest to put a stop to Shadee (Wizard level 5, necromancer). Our hero has tracked the villian to his underground lair, wherein “there were several ritual and seance rooms and what really struck us was the intense and extreme cold in the rooms”. Church (by the way, am I alone in thinking that naming your cleric “Church” is only one step up from calling your characters “Bob’s fighter 1”, “Bob’s figher 2”, and so on? Not sure what the DM was thinking with “Shadee”, either) neglects to mention how he turned several undead and avoided some tricky pit traps while he was down there, but we can assume he’s just being modest. There were plenty of XP given out that day, I can tell you. Still, it looks like Shadee escaped, and now the campaign is coming to the streets of Cambridge. The local peasants are pretty excited by the prospect.

13 Comments on "The Devil went down to Cambridge OR Attacking the Darkness"


    1. Given the lack of details on who Rev Church is, I wonder whether he and Shadee have ever been seen in the same room at the same time…

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  1. Not satisfied with a Trinity, they crave other supernatural beings.

    Mmm. I remember feeling thoroughly disoriented the first time I realised that an apparently perfectly sensible Christian I knew also believed that demons and evil spirits existed and that witchcraft had some chance of actually working.

    I think in my childhood I had inferred a general principle explaining why some religions appeared to taken seriously while some (e.g. the Norse and Greek pantheons) were considered obsolete and discredited, and it was roughly “The fewer supernatural entities you multiply believe in, the more credible you are”. Atheism is of course the taking of this principle to its natural conclusion, but it seemed to me that nearly everyone was prepared to take it as far as discarding any belief system that needed more than one god (or one-which-is-somehow-actually-three, if you insist on cheating by messing about with the Peano axioms). So it was quite a surprise to suddenly find all these demons and spirits and stuff inside the head of somebody I had previously pegged as differing from me by only one god.

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    1. I remember feeling thoroughly disoriented the first time I realised that an apparently perfectly sensible Christian I knew also believed that demons and evil spirits existed and that witchcraft had some chance of actually working.

      Well, not Christians believe that, of course, but orthodoxy pretty much commits you to the view that there’s a Devil and demons, and the Bible contains episodes of witchcraft actually working.

      It is quite odd. There’s a sort of elegant monism about the philosopher’s god you get from the Kalam argument and similar, but Christians (especially “Bible-believing” ones) believe in more than that, a lot more (which, of course, was my point). I guess some of the educated ones are a bit embarrassed about it, hence my vicar’s warning to take What the Bible Says seriously.

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    2. if you insist on cheating by messing about with the Peano axioms

      We can’t have that. I think a statement of faith is called for:

      “I believe in Peano
      creator of these axioms
      And in the natural numbers
      that are reflexive
      symmetric
      transitive
      and closed under equality
      I believe in zero
      And that the successor of a natural number
      is also a natural number
      and yet that zero is the successor of no natural number.
      I believe in the equality
      of two natural numbers with the same successor
      I believe that if a set contains zero
      and also the successor of every natural number in the set
      yea even unto the aleph noughth generation
      then the set contains every natural number.”

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      1. Very good, but generations should be indexed by ordinals rather than cardinals. Yea, even unto the omegath generation. Oh, and actually the omegath generation isn’t actually there. Yea, even for a sequence of generations of order-type omega. That’s a bit cumbersome. Yea, even as generation succeeds generation, sequence without end. Oh, I dunno.

        Of course, since Kronecker informs us that God created the natural numbers (but all else is the work of man), maybe you need to change the opening line — except that of course it would make it harder for some of us to say sincerely.

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        1. Yea, even unto the omegath generation. Oh, and actually the omegath generation isn’t actually there.

          When the omegath generation *is* there, the world will end.

          God created the natural numbers (but all else is the work of man)

          That did occur to me 🙂 The creed only credits Peano with the axioms, not the numbers 🙂

          Maybe…

          Peano created the axioms, but *in a very real sense* God guided the derivation of the natural numbers from those axioms.

          …except that implies there weren’t any natural numbers before Peano, so really, how had everyone been counting their sheep and wives and dead enemies up till then?

          The only logical conclusion is that Peano captured the wild, free, innocent, joyful, natural numbers, bound them in chains and forced them to slave away in the mines of mathematics, chipping out new theorems.

          But even that was not enough! Man sullied the purity of the natural numbers by breeding fractions and negative numbers. He tortured them, square rooting until they broke under the strain, creating twisted mutants like the irrationals and the imaginaries. Even then, Man’s ambition knew no bounds. He created (*gasp*) the transcendentals!

          Free the numbers, I say! This cruelty has gone on too long! *waves placard*

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        2. For the last line, how about:

          I believe that a set contains every natural number
          if it contains zero
          and also the successor of every natural number in the set
          generation after generation
          sequence without end.

          Reply

  2. “what really struck us was the intense and extreme cold in the rooms”

    I consulted the ever-reliable Tough Guide to Fantasyland and one of the OMT*s for “Black Arts” was “a feeling of extreme cold”.

    Good to see that Rev Church has been sticking closely to the words of the book.

    * Official Management Terms, ie cliched phrases

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  3. Subject: Lynius Shadee – Daniel Hussey
    I wonder, perchance, if this has anything to do with Mr Daniel Hussey who made a habit of declaring for right wing parties and promising to open occult shops which never came to pass in the 1990s? Looks like the Creme of the Cambridge establishment have been gnashing their teeth for nothing? see http;//www.saff.ukhq.co.uk/hussey.htm Arnold

    Reply

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